Winter’s Chill

This piece was originally published on the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective‘s WordPress page.  I cannot encourage you strongly enough to visit this page and read some of the brilliant work written by this talented group of writers and visionaries.  I am honored to have a place there.


Winter is starting

To settle into my bones

Making itself at home

The cold steals silent,

Stealthy under doorways and seeps

Through the small cracks in my armor

Looking for firm purchase

Conspiring to steal my warmth

Chilling my nose, my toes

My fingertips

 

The flat gray December skies

Speak of future snow

Will it be a flurry

Or a blizzard, I wonder?

The days grow short

The nights grow long

And as sleep is often as evasive

As a child playing hide and seek with me

In a many roomed Victorian house

Full of small hidey-holes

This darkness can feel endless

Unrelenting

 

I worry that winter’s frost

Is starting to form

Over the delicate tissue

Of my heart

Making my blood slow and sluggish

That it will crystalize on my soul

Encasing me, trapping me

Under a clear sheet of ice

Thick, hard, muffling my voice

 

I fight to resist this

Encroaching winter

This mournful twilight

But I am isolated

In this icy landscape

Full of skeletal trees

Frozen puddles surrounded

By hard mud that crunches

Under my frozen feet

I feel transparent

Thin somehow

Have I become a ghost?

I seek a lantern in the darkness

Or a bright red cardinal

To break up this

Bleak, white tundra

 

© 2016 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Damaged (revisited 2)

Written a year ago from the belly of the beast.


I sit with myself

in uncomfortable silence

suppressed screams

ringing in my ears

tears running down my face

again

 

All my demons

insecurities

have come out to play

today

mocking me with their laughter

taunting voices

sing-song in my head

 

Shit mother

Shit wife

Shit niece

Shit cousin

Shit friend

Shit human being

 

Over and over

endless loop

of recrimination

 

On days like this

I can’t even remember who

I am anymore

I don’t know

what is mine to claim

I am no one

I am pain

 

I read an essay right before Christmas

calling for compassion

for those “poor unfortunate souls”

who are depressed over the holidays

who engage in self-harm

who contemplate suicide

the writer referred to them as “damaged”

my hackles went up

“Only I get to call me damaged, lady,”

I angrily responded

if only in my head

 

Only I get to define the frantic dance

my neural synapses have been engaged in

no one else

gets to name

my crazy for me

no one gets to pity me

not even me

especially not me

 

If awards were given out

for running on sheer will

stubbornness

this past year

I should at least be

on the nomination list

look  for my name under

Depression/Bipolar Disorder

PTSD

and

I’m still breathing

 

© 2016 Revised 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

 

December Ghost

I have been walking

Through the holiday season

As if from the inside

Of an ice tunnel

I see cheerful lights

I hear joyous voices

I smell pine

But everything is muffled, remote

I experience these sensations

From a distance

 

As I trod Locust Walk

On my way to my

Sterile subterranean office

I know that I will yet again

Spend too many hours

Trying to wrestle

My focus, attention span

Back onto work

Deadlines looming

My thoughts too easily

Wander away into ether

 

Other commuters

Look as though they

Are on another plain

Of existence

Our colors, our vibrancy

Do not match

No look of recognition

No acknowledgement

As we pass each other

They are like ghosts

Drifting by on the cobblestones

 

It occurs to me

That perhaps it is I

Who has become

The ghost

Washed out

Stretched thin

Rendered transparent

Insubstantial

Liable to disintegrate

Become completely

Incorporeal

If strong enough winds blow

 

© 2016 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Unsteady

I am

in two places

at once

Standing on the pine needles

a watcher in the woods

Simultaneously

on the merry-go-round

which is spinning

fast

so very, very fast

as if powered by a rocket

g-force achieved

No matter where I stand

it is

all blur

dizziness

breathlessness

adrenaline

terror

unknowing

Will white knuckled grip

on smooth metal bar

be lost?

How far the flight?

How hard the landing?

How high the collateral damage?

How broken the woman?

 

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Elephants and fathers

Sometimes I am really good at ignoring

the elephant in the room

but this one has started trumpeting

looking baleful

and shooting peanuts at me

in an effort to get my attention

I think I even heard it mutter, “Bitch, please!” under its breath

So, did I ever mention that my father disappeared

off the face of the earth

when I was ten

and has never been heard from again?

there was an FBI investigation and everything

which is retrospect, probably had more to do

with his criminal activities

than genuine concern about his welfare

but let’s not go there

So you being gone for 12 days with no word

Feels familiar

Feels like abandonment

Feels like loss

Feels like mourning

Guess I should have told you that story

 

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Gravity/Tales from the PTSD Files (revisited)

Another Saturday

another migraine

another two hour nap

trying to sleep it off

This is becoming a familiar and unwelcome routine

but it is my first migraine in a week

maybe the Mindfulness Meditation techniques

are actually helpful

 

I have been experimenting with different guided

meditations on YouTube

My favorite is a profanity-laden mindfulness exercise

sent to me by my friend Vanessa

but it gives me such a case of the giggles

that I cannot concentrate on my breathing

 

A second is tailored just for migraine and features the voice of an

Australian man that I am starting to develop erotic fantasies about

with a voice that sexy

he has got to be good in bed

but every time he talks about letting the tension in the head and neck

dissolve and drain away into the ground

I picture it becoming water running down my body and then I need to pee

(sucks to be over 50)

 

The third is a whole body check in that I am leery of

it provokes defensive and protective feelings in me

during the check in with the core of my body

I am tempted to literally cover my

hips

belly

chest

with my hands while listening to it

 

I have discovered that an unexpected side effect

of practicing mindfulness meditation

is that I can no longer slip easily into the

(dissociative) day dreams that I enjoy when I am commuting

that calm me when I am stressed

help me get back to sleep when I am in insomnic (nightly)

I had not realized how much I relied on being able to go away in my mind

to cope with the stressors of my life

 

After this morning’s nap

I had sudden flash of memory that CB had actually brought up two themes

from our previous session

while referring to her dog-eared legal pad

The first

“I am attuned to pain”

The second

“I forget I have gravity”

(“gravity” was her word, not mine. i am sure that i used “impact”)

 

That is:

I forget that my

words

thoughts

actions

very existence

impacts anyone else

 

Because I feel so

thin

transparent

invisible

unworthy

unlovable

Hmmmm. . .

let’s sit with that one for a minute

 

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

Pain and Chocolate-From the PTSD Files (revisited)

As I go about my life

a detail of Tuesday’s lost hour

(55 minutes)

pops into my head with surprising clarity

I am sure that it has been sitting

just below the surface for the last four days

and that I have been studiously looking around it

like a white elephant in the middle of a living room

(why white?  i wonder. i have always liked the idea of a polka-dotted elephant.

maybe pink and purple)

 

C.B. unexpectedly rifles through her notepad and says

“Do you remember last week’s theme?”

(last week had a theme?! i don’t remember a theme)

I forget that she writes notes while we talk

I look down when I feel too exposed

maybe she writes during those moments

or perhaps she has mastered writing legibly

while never breaking eye contact

I picture scrawl at odd angles

that she must struggle to decipher after I leave

 

She has used the notepad several times

to draw me cryptic diagrams

that I fold like origami before disappearing

them into the depths of my bag

She looks at the lined white legal pad with curled up edges

(hello OCD)

on her lap to make sure she gets the phrasing exact

while I idly wonder if I have my own dedicated pad

just for me

Or whether she uses it for everyone and gives us

secret code names to remember whose notes belong to who

for no particular reason I decide I want to be Blue Iguana

 

“I am attuned to pain” she reads my words back to me

the room is silent as I absorb this and consider

why she wants to talk about this now

I am (relatively) sure that at the moment I said it

I meant that I was sensitive to other people’s pain

The probing and insightful look she is currently giving me

Suggests that she at least understands that

There are many layers of meaning to those five words

That I am still not so sure I am ready to explore

 

I rarely think about my relationship to pain (much)

though I have had flashing thoughts (okay, maybe more than flashing)

that not so unlike alcoholics and drug addicts

That perhaps (just maybe)

I have an addiction to pain

(and chocolate. but chocolate hasn’t come up yet in our sessions)

to my pain

that maybe inflicting psychic self-pain (and maybe physical pain)

hurting myself in this way

has become compulsive

out of control

 

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved